It's not just that many children grow up in poverty in America; it's also that they tend to grow up in close quarters to one another. 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released one of its "Kids Count" reports on federal census data, this one on concentrated poverty.  It shows that 57,000 Oregon kids are growing up poor, and poverty is often concentrated. 

And it is more concentrated for non-white children.  Children First for Oregon works to alleviate such situations. 


J.D. Vance made quite a splash with his book Hillbilly Elegy.  The book about hard times in Appalachia and environs, and how the people living those hard times see themselves and the country, shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. 

It was seen as a key to understanding how Donald Trump won the presidency.  And Ron Howard will make a movie out of it. 

FORTEPAN / Magyar Bálint, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50532648

In America, everybody has the same opportunity, we like to think.  Our history tells another story, one of permanent underclasses whose members have little hope of escaping poverty. 

Historian Nancy Isenberg focuses on one of those underclasses in her bestselling book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.  Poor whites have been a frequent political focus as well as a frequent scapegoat. 

Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32343945

Home prices are getting so high, it's becoming harder for people to afford buying their first homes.  So the state of Oregon is stepping in with its First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account, effective at the beginning of this year. 

Participants can have money taken out of their paychecks--up to $5,000 a year for individuals and $10,000 for couples--to save for down payments and other housing costs.  And it's not strictly limited just to first-timers. 


People who don't have much money can have their lives turned upside-down by a health crisis.  California's Whole Person Care program identifies people who receive Medi-Cal (medicaid) benefits who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and provides additional attention and benefits to them. 

Shasta County is one of the areas participating in the Whole Person Care pilot program. 


The idea that people in poverty are just lazy people shirking work is severely undercut by research. 

That includes a new report from the Oregon Center for Public Policy showing that most Oregonians below the poverty line have jobs. 

Janet Bauer is a policy analyst at OCPP. 


When a Republican Congress and a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, ended "welfare as we know it," millions of Americans were thrown off the welfare rolls.

The reform focused on work requirements, and made it impossible for a recipient to receive funding for more than five years.

Author Felicia Kornbluh argues that these reforms fell especially heavily on the backs of poor single mothers, especially mothers of color.  Her book with Gwendolyn Mink is Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective

California Food Banks Receive ‘Trade Aid’ Food, But It Comes With A Cost

Nov 10, 2018
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio file, 2015

When President Trump slaps tariffs on China and other trading partners, those nations strike back. U.S. farmers find themselves caught in the middle.


The fictional Ebenezer Scrooge said of the world "There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty."  We comfort ourselves by thinking, nearly 200 years later, that we treat poor people better now. 

Sarah Smarsh begs to differ.  She found in her life that to have less means people often think you are less. 

Smarsh unfolds that view in Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth


In most of Oregon's counties, less than half of the children born into low-income families will reach the middle class or beyond as adults. 

That is one of the starker findings of the Oregon Community Foundation's "Tracking Oregon's Progress," or TOP, report for 2017.  The latest TOP also finds that child poverty is on the rise in the state, which could doom even more people to less-than-middle-class status for life. 

Caitlyn Ruffenach of OCF was the lead author of the report. 

Peter Edelman has been focused on poverty in America for a very long time. 

He's one of the two Clinton Administration staffers who resigned in protest when the president signed a welfare reform bill in 1996. 

America is hard on poor people, a situation Edelman covers in his book Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America

Examples abound: Ferguson, Missouri, where fines and fees were used to fund city government, is just one. 

Rick Harris, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37965809

Detroit might be the unofficial capital city of the "rust belt," battered by decades of deindustrialization and decay. 

That's why people can find real deals on real estate there.  Like Drew Philp, who got one really cheap and wrote about it in A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City

Renovating the house will eventually cost him a bit more than the original investment, but he's learned a lot about his adopted city and American society--and himself as well. 

On The Road To Find American Revolution

Jan 20, 2017

Talk of revolution breaks over the American consciousness in waves every so often, maybe more often just before and after elections. 

Yes! Magazine co-founder Sarah Van Gelder, who practices "solutions journalism," took a cross-country trip to find people who are already changing the country and the way it does business, one local effort at a time. 

The result is Van Gelder's book The Revolution Where You Live, detailing her odyssey from the Northwest to the East Coast and back. 

From downtrodden Newark and Detroit to the Bakken oil field and Montana coal country, there's a lot going on. 

A History Of The White Underclass

Jun 27, 2016
Viking Press

In theory, America is the land of opportunity: anyone can do anything, and we are not a country of strong class lines.  That's the theory. 

The recent debates about inequality remind us that people who don't make much money have a hard time getting to a position to make more. 

Historian and author Nancy Isenberg says it's not a new situation.  She is the author of the newly released White Trash

The book tracks the accomplishments and abuses of (and on) poor white people since colonial days. 

Losing A Home, Suddenly

Mar 29, 2016
Penguin Books

The word itself has a creepy sound: EVICTED.  And the book by that name of Matthew Desmond shows just how wrenching a process eviction can be. 

He follows eight families in the Milwaukee area, dealing with two different landlords. 

The circumstances that lead to eviction are clearly laid out... in our part of history, people spend half of their income or more just to put a roof over their heads, and it's not always a pleasant roof. 

California Cities Build Momentum on Minimum Wage Boosts

Dec 22, 2015
Pauline Bartolone/CALmatters

Lydia Flores saves gas money by taking a two-hour train ride to and from her cashier job at a Los Angeles supermarket. She tells her teenage sons about another way the family can save on the cost of eggs.

“Eat it slow,” she tells them. “They gotta savor their eggs now.”

To stretch her dollars, Flores gets some food from churches. Her sons wear their uncle’s hand-me-downs. A couple of times a year, she’ll ask a local nonprofit to help pay a utility bill.

Public Domain

Chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are present all over the country, delivering on the society's goal of helping people in need. 

St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County defines that mission broadly, with many facets to its operation. 

One of the facets is building affordable housing, and the society just broke ground on new housing in Junction City, with additional units about to open up in Eugene (there's a waiting list). 

Welfare Reform: F for Oregon, C for California

Mar 23, 2015

The days of "welfare queens" and other derogatory terms for people receiving public assistance are supposed to be behind us. 

Congress passed welfare reform nearly 20 years ago to put some conditions on people receiving assistance. 

States continue to work to curtail poverty and provided needed services, and the Heartland Institute in Chicago gives them grades. 

Sorry Oregon, you get an F, and California gets a C. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Most of us take for granted that we can have a hot shower pretty much anytime we like.  But for people without a home, such basic personal hygiene can be a rare luxury. Now, in Ashland, community groups have come together to create a solution that meets the simple human need for cleanliness with dignity and compassion.

Taylor Winkle/Northwest News Network

Across the country more than one million kids may not know where they’re going to sleep tonight.

It could be in a car, on a friend’s couch, in a homeless shelter, or even on the street. In Oregon, there are more than 20,000 homeless students, in California, nearly a quarter million. And for these kids getting their homework done is the least of their problems.

Now a unique program out of Tacoma is trying to help those kids do better in school, one family at a time.